Revenge Versus Rapport: Interrogation, Terrorism, and Torture

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Abstract

This review begins with the historical context of harsh interrogation methods that have been used repeatedly since the Second World War. This is despite the legal, ethical and moral sanctions against them and the lack of evidence for their efficacy. Revenge-motivated interrogations (Carlsmith & Sood, 2009) regularly occur in high conflict, high uncertainty situations and where there is dehumanization of the enemy. These methods are diametrically opposed to the humanization process required for adopting rapport-based methods–for which there is an increasing corpus of studies evidencing their efficacy. We review this emerging field of study and show how rapport-based methods rely on building alliances and involve a specific set of interpersonal skills on the part of the interrogator. We conclude with 2 key propositions: (a) for psychologists to firmly maintain the Hippocratic Oath of “first do no harm,” irrespective of perceived threat and uncertainty, and (b) for wider recognition of the empirical evidence that rapport-based approaches work and revenge tactics do not. Proposition (a) is directly in line with fundamental ethical principles of practice for anyone in a caring profession. Proposition (b) is based on the requirement for psychology to protect and promote human welfare and to base conclusions on objective evidence.

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